The Blade Itself

Abercrombie's work has become synonymous with the growing sub-genre of grimdark fantasy Naturally there's a lot of crossover between grimdark fantasy (which subverts the tropes of traditional heroic fantasy) and dark fantasy (which is more adult fantasy that takes elements from horror). The Blade Itself fits both categories, and the First Law trilogy that it belongs to is an amazing read. When perhaps the most sympathetic character of the trilogy is a horribly disfigured master-torturer, you know you've got something special. The books feature cannibal wizards, twisted monstrosities, demonic magic that acts like radiation in that it causes cancerous symptoms in those exposed to it, a barbarian with an Incredible Hulk-style split personality, and more. The series arguably began the current grimdark movement by systematically subverting every trope of fantasy, not the least of which is the tendancy of heroic fantasy to be light and innocent. It's positively dripping with darkness, horror and violence, and every now and then Abercrombie will catch you off-guard with things like half-eaten human skins left in bushes, or equally fucked-up things like that. Thanks Joe. Read this book if:you want to read a book that follows a similar structure to The Lord of the Rings, but written by the criminally insane.

Books in First Law World Series (6)

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Abercrombie's Other Books

Abercrombie's other standalone books set in the same world as First Law: Best Served Cold and The Heroes and Red Country. He has a new YA series out as well called Half a King, with books 2 and 3 out this year (2015).

The Grim Company

The Grim Company. A lot of similarities to Abercrombie's Blade Itself, in fact the book almost channels The Blade Itself in regards to the prose, the setting, and even the band of so called heroes. There's a cast of troubled characters including a couple Northern barbarians (read Bloody Nine), there's a cowardly sword fighting fop who bullshits his way through fights, and there's a troubled girl with a dark past. Really, this is probably as close you are going to get to Abercrombie's style in tone and setting sharp prose, witty sarcastic dialogue, troubled characters, and an entertaining if tragically dark story. For part of the novel, I felt like I was reading Abercrombie through and through. Read.

The Scourge of the Betrayer

The Scourge of the Betrayer by Jeff Salyards. Oh man, shockingly good. I have to say, as of 2015, Salyards is one of my new favorite authors. Absolutely read this good good grimdark if you love Abercrombie. While it's not necessarly the same in style (The Scourge of the Betrayer reads more like of a cross between say The Black Company and Prince of Thorns), it's some of the best grimdark I've had the pleasure of recently reading. The sequel, The Veil of the Deserters, is even better than the first book. Really, pick this one up right away. Be wary though, it's grim as fuck.

The Broken Empire Trilogy

Mark Lawrence's Broken Empire Trilogy. Mark takes the idea of the antihero, set within the grimdark medium, and brings in something new to the form. It's a compelling tale that really resonates. You will either love or hate the Broken Empire, but if you like Abercrombie, you should read it.

The Black Company

While it doesn't have the sarcastic, cutting edge wit of Abercrombie, the story is dark and the setting even darker and the characters a bunch of criminal misfits that do a lot of bad just for a pay check. Black Company, arguably, IS one of the major books that started the whole grim dark movement  Martin was hugely inspired by Glen Cook's works. You can argue Cook helped influence a major part of the 21 century fantasy movement that's still being felt today with NEW books written in the same sort of style.

Mazalan Book of the Fallen

Steven Erickson's Malazan Book of the Fallen -- dark epic fantasy on a grand, grand, grand scale. 

The Steel Remains

If you like the epic-fantasy-turned-on-its-head that marks Abercrombie's effort, read Richard Morgan's The Steel Remains. Morgan writes some interesting science fiction but has turned his writing chops to the fantasy genre with a new epic fantasy series. Like Abercrombie, Morgan flips some of the standard fantasy conventions on their side (including an openly gay hero). Even better, the trilogy is now completed with the last book (and best!) released the end of last year (2014). This is some of the darkest fantasy works in the whole of the genre.

The Prince of Nothing

R. Scott Bakker's The Prince of Nothing series. In short, an epic fantasy about a fake Jesus Christ with some of the same powers comes back to "rescue" mankind from evil. But this savior's goals are questionably self-centered. The books are full of raw action, grey characters, with an interesting hero, and a subtle mix of some deep philosophy thrown in too.

The Lies of Locke Lamora

Scott Lynche's The Lies of Locke Lamora. This hero is in fact a thief. And not a thief who steals from the rich to give to the poor, but rather steals from the rich to get rich -- filthy rich. Full of sharp and witty writing, often hilarious with a dark edge to boot as you progress through the book. Probably the closest style of "writing" you'll find to Abercrombie.

Heroe's Die

Michael Stover's Cain series. Expect: dark, sarcastic humor; gritty and dirty worlds; heroes die and suffer; intelligent plots and fantastically sharp prose.

A Song of Ice and Fire

George R.R. Martin. His A Song of Ice and Fire is as gray and gritty -- maybe even more so  as Abercrombie's works. Really, I've talked enough about him here. Just read him, dammit! 

God's War

Kameron Hurley's Bel Dame Apocrypha: God's War. God's War does is a refreshing read, proving that there is still more to Grimdark then you might have thought, nearly a decade after it's become popular. 

The Folding Knife

KJ Parker. The Folding Knife. Grimdark, but a different style than Abercrombie. Really, Read anything by this author.

Thomas Covenant The Unbeliever

If you like the dark cynicism found in Abercrombie's work, you should read some Stephen Donaldson's Thomas Covenant series. You might also like his Gap sci-fi.

Memory of Flames

You might also want to check out Stephen Deas' fast paced, ultra violent fantasy Memory of Flames. Like some of the books recommended above, there are no real heroes. Everyone is willing to betray another to reach their goals. The story has some great action, though less character development. You can think of this series as a more gritty and unfeeling version of Naomi Termerak. 

Tome of the Undergates

Sam Sykes' Tome of the Undergates is another novel in the same vein as the Blade Itself. The book subverts some of the standard fantasy conventions. Overall, I quite enjoyed it as it's a creative and witty take on some of the standard fantasy conventions.

The Dagger and the Coin saga

A new series on the fantasy scene by Daniel Abraham, one of the most gifted writers in the genre (author of The Long Price Quartet), is The Dragon's Path. It's a fresh and innovative answer to the standard epic fantasy fare, challenging quite a few of the fantasy assumptions that most people take for granted. Definitely up your alley if you appreciate authors like Abercrombie, Bakker, and Lynch. Keep in mind, it's MUCH slower paced and focuses much more on character building for the most part. We are 5 books in now and it's a love or hate sort of series. You can't argue with the writing chops present in the series, though.

If you like gritty, grimdark fantasy, we suggest you check out our Best Grimdark Fantasy Books list.

Booklists having this book

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Other books by Abercrombie, Joe

The Blade Itself

Abercrombie's work has become synonymous with the growing sub-genre of grimdark fantasy Naturally there's a lot of crossover between grimdark fantasy (which subverts the tropes of traditional heroic fantasy) and... Read more

Before They Are Hanged

 Read more

Last Arguments Of Kings

 Read more

Best Served Cold

 Read more

The Heroes

The title is a bit tongue-in-cheek, as Abercrombie himself describes it this way: "Three men. One battle. No heroes." It was designed to be a standalone novel, but is set... Read more

Red Country

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The First Law

Murderous conspiracies rise to the surface, old scores are ready to be settled, and the line between hero and villain is sharp enough to draw blood. Unpredictable, compelling, wickedly funny,... Read more

Before They Are Hanged

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The Last Argument Of Kings

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Best Served Cold

Monza Murcatto is out for blood. Known as the Snake of Talins, the most feared and famous mercenary in Styria, she is betrayed by her employer and left for dead.... Read more

Half A King

If you don't know who Joe Abercrombie is, then shame on you. His other work is at the forefront of gritty fantasy (hint: you might spot him further down this... Read more

Half The World

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Half A War

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Half A King

Reading a new Abercrombie book is just like going to a fancy restaurant, it doesn't happen very often, but when it does, you relish every moment of the experience. Half... Read more

The First Law Trilogy

One of the best fantasy book series period and one of the best audiobook performances to boot. This is one of those rare reading performances by a master narrator where... Read more

Sharp Ends

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Half The World

Abercrombie kicked off his Shattered Sea series with the award-winning Half a King, but his second novel approaches true mastery. Half the World picks up many years after the first,... Read more

Half A War

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